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Dassault chief hopes to seal one or two Rafale deals in 2016, report says

A visitor looks at replicas of the fighter jet Rafale (L) and Neuron on the Dassault booth during the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) at Cointrin airport in Geneva, Switzerland, in this picture taken on May 19, 2015. Picture taken May 19, 2015. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/Files

PARIS (Reuters) - Dassault Aviation hopes to seal “one or two” contracts to sell its Rafale planes this year and this would include a much-heralded deal to sell 36 Rafale fighter jets to India, its chief executive said an interview.

“One can hope for on one or two contracts this year, including India,” Eric Trappier was reported as saying by magazine Challenges on its web site.

Negotiations for India to buy 36 French Rafale fighter jets are nearing the finish line, the Indian defence ministry said last week, with sources saying the price will be set at around $9 billion.

“Significantly progress has been made and I sense a true will to reach an agreement, possibly in the coming weeks,” Trappier said of the India talks.

Both sides had hoped to wrap up the strategic order during President Francois Hollande’s visit for India’s Republic Day celebration in January, but hard bargaining on price stalled a final result.

Dassault Aviation said in March it was working on deals to also sell Rafale jets to Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Andrew Callus